Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Take Tuesday: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran
Some books are just so good, you have to read them again. And some books deserve a second chance. And some books I think about and change my opinion or have more to say. Take Tuesday is a chance to do just that. 

Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Author: Azar Nafisi
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 356
Genre: Historical / Memoir / Political / Nonfiction
Previous Readings: November 2012
Date Completed This Time: 5/3/17

Summary: Nafisi reflects on her time teaching Western Literature in post-revolution Iran. She talks about her experiences and how the books impacted her and her students in the midst of their changing world. 

What I Thought Before: You should definitely go back and read my first post about this book. I think I covered my thoughts pretty well.

What I Think Now: I recommended this book for book club and, thankfully, it was a hit. We had a wonderful discussion about the purpose of literature, gender roles, and the arch of revolution. Good stuff. It's such a treat to share books like this with an intellectual group of people.

I enjoyed this book just as much this time as I did the first time I read it. In fact, I probably enjoyed it more in some ways. When I first read the book, I had a much more primitive knowledge of classic literature. I hadn't read many of the books Nafisi references. Now, however, because of the 100 Best Novels challenge I've undertaken, I was familiar with many more of them. My favorite section remained the Gatsby section, though. As we discussed at book club, it definitely helps to have a wide range of literary knowledge when reading this book. You don't have to have it, but it helps.

Nafisi's writing is dense and lovely. This book is not one you can read quickly. I had to force myself to really slow down and digest it several times throughout my reading. The time invested, however, is worthwhile. It's a beautiful book and a great impetus for deep discussion on any number of topics. 

Quotes I Loved:
  • "The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted.  It questioned traditions and expectations when they seemed too immutable."
  • "It is only through literature that one can put oneself in someone else's shoes and understand the other's different and contradictory sides and refrain from becoming too ruthless.  Outside the sphere of literature only one aspect of individuals is revealed.  But if you understand their different dimensions you cannot easily murder them...."
  • "...do not, under any circumstances, belittle a work of fiction by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of real life; what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth." - don't try to see yourself in literature, just search for truth."
  • "I said to him that I waned to write a book in which I would thank the Islamic Republic for all the things it had taught me - to love Austen and James and ice cream and freedom."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yes, probably at some point. 

A Reduced Review: Nafisi's writing is so beautiful and this book offers so much food for thought. 


  1. I read this for the first time a couple years ago and loved it. It's definitely the sort of book you want to savor and read slowly. My copy has dozens of post-it flags sticking out all over the place marking all the passages I wanted to remember!

  2. I've still got this book on my to-read list, along with Lolita. Glad to hear your book club enjoyed discussing it!